March marks a global celebration of women, honoring their historical contributions, inspiring stories of strength and resiliency, and remarkable achievements today that equip them to be the leaders of tomorrow. SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (SAP CSR) has multiple programs and partnerships that support under-resourced women and young girls, particularly in their education journeys.

Did you know that in 2022 women represented 32% of the overall workforce of large tech companies, and within that only 25% of women held technical roles? Empowering women with education and employment opportunities can help bridge this gap and often is the catalyst for dreams and aspirations to take shape. SAP is committed to promoting equitable access to education and employment, fostering future skills development, and driving innovation for a better future.

One of our SAP Corporate Social Responsibility partnerships that we are incredibly proud of is our partnership with University of the People, the first nonprofit, tuition-free, American, accredited, online university dedicated to global access to higher education. Established in 2009, it provides virtual learning for over 126,000 students worldwide, with over 16,000 refugees as part of its student population. It serves students believing that higher education is a fundamental right for all.

Last year, in honor of SAP’s 50th anniversary, SAP funded 100 scholarships, with 50 associate’s degrees and 50 bachelor’s degrees in computer science or business administration, for refugees and displaced youth aged 18 to 30 worldwide. SAP CSR also partnered with the SAP Learning organization to support 50 additional scholarships specifically for Ukrainian refugees and aligned with University of the People and Teach for Afghanistan to fund scholarships for student teachers in Afghanistan seeking their master’s of education degrees. Beyond scholarships, SAP established a pilot, one-on-one, virtual mentorship program, where SAP employees provide career mentorship for students seeking advice and guidance.

Each scholarship funded by SAP supports a refugee student on their education journey with University of the People. To honor Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight a few stories of some inspiring refugee women from University of the People who show that education is the tool they used for a hopeful tomorrow.

Let’s start with Kateryna Glubochenko, who proves that education can transform lives, even in the toughest of circumstances.

Kateryna is a University of the People student from Ukraine who recently graduated with her master’s in education.

In the weeks following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kateryna wrote this message: “I am paralyzed with fear. This is our sixth day in a bomb shelter. Air raids happen every hour. Russian troops are only 50 kilometers from my city. I can’t yet leave my home because I’m pregnant and have no way to leave the city. Studying is the only way to calm down, and I still believe I will survive all this. Studying at University of the People is hope for me now.”

Thanks to University of the People’s entirely virtual online experience providing students access to education from anywhere in the world, Kateryna decided to continue her studies despite the ongoing warfare in her hometown. Luckily, Kateryna could travel to Moldova with her 10-year-old son a few weeks later but had to leave the rest of her family behind. Her husband joined the fight against Russia and her parents were too elderly to make the long trip on foot. From Moldova, Kateryna and her son took a train to Poland and then traveled to Spain to stay with a distant relative.

A few months after arriving in Spain, Kateryna gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and, shortly afterward, completed her master’s degree in education. Kateryna’s strength and commitment to completing her degree in challenging circumstances is incredibly inspiring. After the fighting in her hometown stopped, Kateryna returned to Ukraine with her two sons and reunited with her husband and parents.

In June 2022, in honor of World Refugee Day, Kateryna joined SAP’s World Refugee Day panel discussion hosted by Alexandra van der Ploeg, head of SAP Corporate Social Responsibility. On the panel, Kateryna talked about what she hopes to do with her new degree.

“Before the war, I believed I could be a curriculum reformer, helping Ukraine advance its education system. I wanted to help advance our economics curriculum because I’m an economics teacher,” she said. “Now, I hope to be part of rebuilding the Ukrainian education system. I believe we can make our educational system more student-oriented and help Ukrainian students flourish. It might take many years to rebuild our educational system, but I want to take part in this process, and my degree will help me become a specialist and help my country.”

In a recent update, Kateryna used her master’s degree to help her get a job working online for a Ukrainian university and is on her way to making her dreams a reality.

Another inspiring University of the People student is Asima, based in Afghanistan. Asima is from Kunduz, a northern Afghan city. In late July 2021, she was displaced to the Afghan capital, Kabul, to seek safety from the conflict between the government and the Taliban. Things took an unexpected turn on August 15, 2021, when the Taliban took over Kabul. Life changed drastically for Asima and her family. Women’s access to education, which had expanded over the last two decades within the country, ended abruptly.

Throughout these changes, University of the People continued to support Afghans seeking degrees, particularly girls and other marginalized groups. The university has provided around 2,000 scholarships to Afghan women since the Taliban’s return to power so they could continue their studies safely.

“When I heard about the scholarships from the University of the People to Afghan women, I quickly applied. Women must empower themselves through education. We are too strong to be frightened. Therefore, I will continue my education,” Asima said. “When I entered the University of the People learning module for the first time, I was thrilled. I couldn’t express my joy and happiness at that moment. University of the People is a fantastic university where I’m in touch with people from different parts of the world for the same purpose of educating. That is where I feel near to my dreams. Thanks to the University of the People, that has become a light on the darkest day of my life!”

As Women’s History Month ends, we proudly tell stories of women at the University of the People who are using their education to build hopeful futures. We look forward to bringing stories of inspiration and empowerment and powering equitable access to education and employment for students everywhere. To learn more about corporate social responsibility at SAP and our partnership with University of the People, visit our Web site.

Julia Donovan is a corporate social responsibility specialist at SAP.